Review: Fishman Aura Spectrum DI

Great acoustic guitar sounds have inspired countless popular songwriters. Carefully crafted instruments create those signature guitar sounds we love to hear on recordings and inspire us whether we are on stage or deep into a late night writing or recording session. It’s unfortunate that most performing spaces, sound systems and recording studios don’t flatter the sound of an acoustic guitar. Some unfortunate situations can make your classic (and expensive) instrument sound like the hundred dollar box store special. If only there were a pedal that could make your guitar sound like it was perfectly recorded with a $4,000 microphone. Brace yourself, it might just be here!

Fishman, known globally for their outstanding pickups for acoustic instruments has developed Aura acoustic imaging technology that uses digital algorithms to restore a studio-mic’ed sound to an acoustic instrument. Their compact DI pedal, the Aura Spectrum, puts this technology at your fingertips.

Here’s how it works: Fishman has precisely recorded various guitars using worldclass

microphones and techniques to capture an “image” of the natural sound that you might achieve in a big-dollar professional studio. When you perform live or record, the image in the Spectrum pedal can be blended with your instrument’s pickup to produce an incredibly accurate recreation of a professionally recorded guitar.

Here’s how you set it up: First, be sure you have a fresh 9V battery (not included) installed or connect a suitable power adapter. Set the volume at minimum. Plug in with a standard ¼-inch and use XLR shielded instrument cables to connect to your mixer or amp. You can now step on the tuner footswitch to tune with the output muted. Next, you’ll want to get a good level, so play hard and adjust the input trim until the clip/batt LED flashes only occasionally. With levels set, the next step is find an image that works with your guitar.

Images are essentially combinations of the type of guitar (dreadnaught, jumbo, etc.) and woods (spruce, maple, etc.) used to make it along with the microphone that was used to record the image. For example, you can choose an image for a spruce top with mahogany back and sides recorded with a Neumann U87 microphone. There are even images for bluegrass fiddle and mandolin. All the image types are listed in the quick start guide, but there is also a diverse variety of images downloadable from Fishman’s online image gallery and 16 locations on the Spectrum to store them. You’ll want to find and load the one that most closely represents your instrument.

Auditioning and selecting images is easy. Just raise the volume and select images that best match your instrument with the bank slider and select knob. You can see them all on pages 6 thru 13 of the quick start guide. Finally, used the blend knob to mix the image with the sound of your pickup (left for more pickup and right for more Image). That’s it. The result is a much more lively sound so if feedback starts, change the position of the phase switch. There’s more advanced feedback handling with an automatic variable frequency notch filter designed to seek out and subdue resonant frequencies.

Fishman does not recommend using the Spectrum with soundboard-mounted pickups, bridge-plate pickups, multi-sensor pickups or microphones since they include unnecessary resonances that can interfere with the Aura processing. Since the images were recorded by Fishman using their undersaddle pickups, the images work best with guitars that have Fishman Acoustic Matrix pickups. However, with just a little experimentation we found the images to enhance every guitar and pick-up combination we tried.

The Aura Spectrum is a great pedal for the performing songwriter or guitarist who wants to add some of the classic mic’ed guitar sound into live performance or recording. However, don’t forget that in addition to the advanced image processing, this compact pedal is a great sounding DI with the ability to quickly beat feedback with a switch to change signal phase and some of the best anti-feedback filtering built right in.

MSRP  $507.62

Street Price $329.97

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